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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit: How He Works

Don Stewart :: What Is the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Unbelieving World?

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What Is the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Unbelieving World?

The Holy Spirit: How He Works – Question 18

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit has a ministry not only to the believer but also to the unbelieving world. The Scripture teaches the following on this subject.

Jesus Revealed the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Unbelieving World

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus, in talking to His disciples, revealed to them the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the world. He said.

However, I am telling you the truth: It’s good for you that I’m going away. If I don’t go away, the helper won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. He will come to convict the world of sin, to show the world what has God’s approval, and to convince the world that God judges it. He will convict the world of sin, because people don’t believe in me. He will show the world what has God’s approval, because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. He will convince the world that God judges it, because the ruler of this world has been judged (John 16:7-11 God’s Word).

The unbelieving world will be convicted of their sins by the working of God the Holy Spirit. In other words, He will show them their need for salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit Has a Personal Ministry to Each Unbeliever

Thus, the Holy Spirit has a personal ministry in the life of each individual unbeliever. He convicts them of sin and their need to receive Jesus Christ as Savior. The sin that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of is not any one specific sin, but the one that will keep them from getting to heaven–the sin of unbelief. Earlier, in John’s gospel we read.

Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil (John 3:18, 19 NRSV).

All of us are born in a state of condemnation. We are separated from God because of our sins. Furthermore, we humans, by nature, do not want to come to the light. Rather we love the darkness rather than the light. This is why we need the convicting work of the Holy Spirit to show us our need for Christ and his salvation.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin because they personally reject Him as their Savior. On the night of His betrayal, we read the following words which He spoke about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

He will convict the world of sin, because people don’t believe in me (John 16:9 God’s Word)

This is the key; people must believe in Jesus Christ. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to reveal this to them.

Unbelievers Deny God’s Righteousness

The Holy Spirit also convicts the world for denying God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is offended by the continual sin of each individual. The Bible speaks of the unbeliever as suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness. Paul wrote the following to the Romans.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth (Romans 1:18 NRSV).

The thought behind this verse is that the unbelieving person is willfully suppressing the truth of God that is trying to reach them. The Holy Spirit is convicting each unbelieving individual for doing this.

The Holy Spirit Convicts the World of Judgment

Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world by judgment. One reason for the coming of Christ was for judgment; to destroy the works of the devil. John wrote.

He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8 NIV).

Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life upon the earth. His death upon the cross has paid the price for the sin of everyone. When He rose three days later, not only had sin been defeated, but death also.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit to the unbeliever is to reveal the truth that God is indeed victorious in the conflict with the devil. The good news is that the unbelieving world no longer has to live in the grip of Satan. Human beings can be set free from his grip on them.

However, the devil is not the only personage who is going to be judged. There will come a day when all of us will be judged by the Lord. Unbelievers will be judged for their rejection of Jesus Christ. They will be sent away to everlasting punishment. The Holy Spirit is presently convicting unbelievers of this coming judgment.

The judgment for believers is not condemnation but rather it is a judgment of rewards for service. For the believer judgment day is “reward day.”

The Holy Spirit Is the Restrainer of Evil

The Holy Spirit also has a ministry to the world as a restrainer. As bad as things are in the world, they would be much worse without the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is presently acting as a restraining force to hold back sin. He does this through the influence of the believer. As long as the Holy Spirit is working in the world through the presence of the believer, sin will not run utterly rampant.

In this way, the Holy Spirit ministers to the world. He also does this, as we have seen, by convicting the world of its sin, by revealing its need for Christ’s salvation, and by restraining evil.

Unbelievers Need to Be Saved from This Evil World

The Scripture encourage people to allow themselves to be saved from the evil world in which they live. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter emphasized this truth. We read.

Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this generation that has gone astray!” (Acts 2:40 NLT).

This can only occur when someone turns to Jesus Christ for salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Will Tell Unbelievers to Depart

On judgment day, Jesus will tell those who have rejected Him to depart. This is because they never knew Him. He said.

Then I will declare to them, ‘‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’ (Matthew 7:23 NRSV).

The judgment will not be for sins people commit in their daily lives – it will be for sin of rejection of Jesus Christ as their Savior. Those who are eternally lost will have rejected the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives which showed them their need for Christ.

The remedy is for the unbeliever to recognize his or her sin of unbelief and trust Jesus Christ as Savior. Each individual chooses whether to accept or reject the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

Summary – Question 18
What Is the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Unbelieving World?

While we usually think of the Holy Spirit working with believers Scripture says that He also has a ministry with unbelievers. Scripture teaches us the following.

First, He convicts the unbelievers of their sin and need for Jesus. Unbelievers have no access to God except through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is the job of the Holy Spirit to show them their need to receive Jesus as their Savior.

The Holy Spirit also shows the world about the judgment that is to come. While the Bible says that Satan was judged by Jesus at His first coming there will come a day when everyone will be judged. Those who have believed in Christ will be rewarded for their efforts for Him after they have trusted Him as Savior.

Those who have rejected Christ will be condemned and sent away to everlasting punishment in a place called the “lake of fire.” The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of this coming judgment.

In addition, the Holy Spirit is also a restraining force in the world. He keeps sin from getting worse. Therefore, He is very busy working in the unbelieving world.

Do Paul and Luke Contradict Each Other concerning How the Holy Spirit Works? ← Prior Section
If There Will Be a Future Great Tribulation, Then Will the Holy Spirit Work during That Time? Next Section →
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